All You Need is “Love, Love, Love”…

When I read about Paul McCartney’s engagement, I shook my head.

The article referenced is focused on the fact that there is no pre-nup, and how British and American views differ on that score. And no, Sir Paul hasn’t taken the plunge as many times as the glittering Elizabeth Taylor for example, whose multiple marriages rose to an enthusiastic eight – or seven – depending on how you count.

Still, embarking on Marriage Number Three after a highly publicized (and expensive) divorce, I wonder why the famous former Beatle is strolling down the aisle again. Or more specifically, will be standing in front of an official of sorts in a civil ceremony, when he ties the knot with long-time girlfriend Nancy Shevell.

It’s not the estimated $800+ million net worth that makes me wonder. It’s the same question I ask myself when anyone remarries multiple times.

If all you really need is love, why continue to marry? Especially when older, and after a nasty divorce?

Some of you may say I’m cynical. Or unromantic.

I consider myself practical.

And what’s not to love about love? I understand the desire to exchange promises, to affirm one’s commitment, and even to feel the belonging that comes from a sense of family. If the couple plans on having children, I realize that most prefer to do so after rings have been given and received. But at 51, is it reasonable to assume that the Next Missus M isn’t expecting to bear babies?

Perhaps it’s the legalities of marriage that remain concerning to me. Having gone through a costly and complicated disentanglement of my own – name changes being just one example of archaic social conventions that often muddy things for the woman for years – I simply don’t understand why people do it. And do it again. And do it again.

Yes, I can conceive of an early marriage – a starter marriage – when you’re twenty-something and you naively enter into a legal union, only to find a few years later that life à deux is not always simple. Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to find a better match some years later – someone with whom you build a family.

That makes Marriage Number Two.

I suppose we can reach a third when midlife hits, and one of the partners may want out. Theoretically, that opens the door for a wedding waltz yet again, perhaps in one’s 50s or 60s. Yet here is where I mutter and scowl.

Why not live together? Why marry?

I can’t comprehend serial remarriage, though I suppose it’s less daunting to the very rich (I daresay Sir Paul qualifies, as do many celebrities). Then again, when you have millions to lose – wouldn’t it be more daunting?

As for those of us who aren’t in that category (or close), we have only to look on our favorite dating sites to encounter thousands of divorced men and women in pursuit of matrimonial magic. And might I add – in my dating adventures (even as a 40-something “older” woman), I met many men in their 40s and 50s who had already married two or three times, as they were actively searching for the next wife.

I wish the future McCartneys much happiness and luck. But I just don’t get it.

Can someone enlighten me?

© D A Wolf



  1. says

    I struggle a bit with this myself. After marrying the first and only time when I was barely 20, I have since realized the many ways that ‘piece of paper’ can change ones life in more ways than just commitment. Many of those are as you say, names and paperwork.

    I hope to one day marry again. Although I am not famous, in my fifties or on number three or four. But I find myself biased against those married multiple times as I don’t feel they are truly committed. To each his own. I wish Paul all the happiness in the world. I also hope he holds onto the billions… Even Hugh Hefner came close to signing up once again. Maybe men are more easily influenced? Maybe the older they get, the less the money matters?

  2. says

    All of my perspective on this topic is theoretical. I suppose that much of what you say – wanting to “make it official” and so on – is what dictates the decision. But you make some really good points. I have a cousin who, after two failed marriages, met the third love in her life and decided not to marry him. She once said, “I’m not good at being married.” And so they have been together (even moving cross-country for each other’s jobs) for many years now. They are quite happy being unmarried and see no reason to rock the boat now. (I assume Oprah and Stedman fall into this camp as well.) Beyond that, all I can say is that it is a highly personal decision. Like you, if I were in McCartney’s shoes I’d likely have gone the other way. But I hope for him, and for his wife, that things turn out better this time around.

  3. Linda says

    Well, I’m not sure how much I can enlighten you, but the first thing I thought of while reading your post is that Paul needs someone to be with. It doesn’t seem he does alone well. Maybe I am cynical or jaded, but I just wouldn’t get married again. I have no desire.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Linda, I have also noticed that some people don’t do well on their own. (I’ve noticed it more in men than women, though that’s certainly not “scientific.” That said, there are interesting data and equally intriguing theories re why men remarry faster and more often.)

  4. says

    Perhaps “marriage” can also be understood as the hieros gamos, or divine wedding (of soul and spirit). The Beetle is a symbol of reincarnation, and the june beetles are flying madly about my garden these nights, caught in webs, buzzing in ears, resting on curtains… Maybe the fab four are caught up in our collective situation, and questions… may Sir Paul, like St. Paul, had some private epiphany, maybe he’s just projecting his anima, maybe he bet 400 mil on the red and would rather be in the action even if things fall black (or is it the other way around?). Maybe a man of his fortune finds it difficult to make his beloved truly believe that he loves her with anything short of this… in his bid, perhaps, for a smaller, more intimate, life in which he feels loved by one human rather than a huge screaming swath of humanity. Here’s to hoping that everybody gets the feeling they are after.

  5. says

    I don’t know. I could go with the ‘some people are old-fashioned’ reason, but is it really that –and I don’t see Paul in that group. Though there are multiple categories in which a person may be ‘old-fashioned.’ I believe in marriage and yet Sweetheart and I lived together for 3 years before our wedding. To me moving in together was a commitment of marriage but even so we officially have a greater chance of divorcing than those who did not cohabit prior to the wedding.

    As for losing millions, Paul has millions to lose and most of us do not. To some that would be reason to be more careful–so much to lose. But a million to him is a happy meal to us; I could afford to lose the cost of a happy meal. He can lose millions and still have millions, but for the rest of us the cost of a divorce itself can leave both sides in poverty and richer lawyers.

    I think it is about commitment though. How many heterosexual couples have commitment ceremonies that are not weddings? Is this something that should be done then? What about religious services without the civil portion–blessed by the church and yet not legally recognized. I don’t know if churches would go for that. But I think it does make sense for older couples who marry–I’m especially thinking of senior citizens in retirement homes who want to leave their inheritance to their kids or who want to maintain spousal retirement benefits. Maybe there could be a marriage for such circumstances. But then people would want to abuse it and twenty-somethings would want to get in on it. But I guess religion wouldn’t have to follow non-discrimination policies and could allow it only to people within a certain age.

    As for Paul, I don’t know. I feel torn because I am a marriage advocate and I don’t advocate divorce–yes, I know it happens and sometimes it happens to a person without choice. But I really hate divorce. I want to applaud his choice to marry and yet I am skeptical of it. And was Linda his 1st wife or was he married once before…? Maybe I’m thinking of John. But his first marriage went well, so when he got married a 2nd time as a widower it made sense. But now I too wonder if he’s just one of those celebrities who divorces.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      You raise so many points – and questions – RollerCoaster.

      Whether or not living together furnishes a higher probability of a healthy, informed, “successful” marriage that doesn’t end in divorce. Issues to do with religious versus civil unions. Other ways of making a commitment. How we live with skepticism and respect for the same institution.

      And what alternatives haven’t we tried? Alternatives that would make for better marriages – other than something as simple (and difficult) as seeking common values and genuine character in a partner with whom you intend to share a life?

  6. Blancmange says

    I think the men who have been married several times don’t do the “being alone” thing very well. They settle into what is familiar to them and what feels “right”. I would have to wonder about someone signing up for a third hitch given that the first two were not all they were cracked up to be.
    Also if you’re going to marry multiple times, a visit to a lawyer and a pre-nup that is air-tight are givens, no ifs ands or buts.
    Personally, for me, if it happens again, great. I’ll try and be sure that the person in question takes it as seriously as I do, being widowed and fully aware of what “til death do us part” means. Actively seeking it? No, I don’t think so. I think it finds you instead but that’s just my personal opinion. :-)

    • BigLittleWolf says

      McCartney’s situation is a bit different than the usual we see and read about in the media, as you point out, Blancmange – given his long marriage to first wife Linda (20 years?), and remarriage after her passing. And I agree with you that sometimes love “finds us” – perhaps we should be looking so hard – and similar views on ’til death do us part” might help, yes.

  7. Blancmange says

    I will also add that perhaps the reason behind Mr. McCartney’s search for marriage has everything to do with his first marriage to Linda, which ended when she died of breast cancer. He is not finding being widowed easy…thus the multiple marriages.

    Just a theory.

  8. says

    I still remember my drill sergeants in the Army advising us, “Life is hard and then you die.” Oh, and then there was the “If the Army had wanted you to get married, they would have issued you a wife.” Sage advice, eh? ;O)

    “I would never advise someone to get married. I would just say that it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.” That’s what I tell friends and family. But then I’m not famous, am I. And having lots of money and fame does tend to make things very complicated, I’m guessing.

    Still, I think that we will be hearing some interesting things from you in the near future about your quest to understand the marriage proposition. Pluses and minues to be sure, but how can you say no or yes to your soul mate who holds the opposite belief about marriage? It’s an interesting world out there.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      That’s a fascinating question you pose, Gandalfe – How can you say no or yes to your soul mate who holds the opposite belief about marriage?

      It’s a question I will certainly ponder, though I will say that I don’t believe in a single “soul mate” (I believe in many possible wonderful, compatible matches).

      Love the quote, by the way.

  9. says

    I am right there with you.

    Marriage seemed the next step in dating when I was 20 something. If I were planning more children, it would seem logical as well. At this point, eh. I’m done bearing children. I’m happy on my own with a wonderful relationship too. I simply have no need for it.

    (I did a whole series on “why marry” on the blog last year so I totally get this post.)

  10. says

    What a great post and a fascinating discussion.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage lately – particularly in light of the recent vote in the New York House legalizing gay marriage. While I firmly support full and equal rights for gay couples, I couldn’t help but ask why we hold onto this archaic institution. I got married seven years ago as a sort of affirmation of my commitment to my best friend and life partner. Our wedding was a special day and a great party, but I’d like to think we’d be in it for the long haul without that piece of paper.

    These days, I’m glad to be married since it entitles me to health insurance. Certainly that wasn’t my motivation to get married – nor, I assume, is it Nancy Shevell’s – but it’s a nice benefit.

    And now I’m rambling. :)

    I do love what Bruce has to say, though, about someone like Paul McCartney wanting to feel small and intimate in a world where he has long been larger than life.

  11. says

    Ah yes – The practical side of me shares your sentiment. “Why not live together? Why marry?” Indeed. And that’s what I’m doing after a failed marriage, and it’s working well for us.

    However, my romantic side craves the idea of the legal union because somehow I think if we’re brave enough to proclaim our love beyond just between ourselves then it must somehow be more true than if we didn’t. Except I know better. And it’s stupid. Sometimes I wish I could do away with this nonsensical romantic self because that’s where most of the trouble comes in, when it blurs the line between fantasy and reality.

  12. says

    During working years, there are reasons to make it legal. Insurance coverage for the spouse, for instance, especially when one of you has better coverage – or coverage, if the other has none. It simplifies who gets what in the event of a death of one of the spouses. But that can be handled in other ways and once retired, or wealthy, I see no reason to make it “official”.

  13. says

    I read somewhere that men who have a very happy first marriage are more likely to remarry after the death of a spouse. One can only assume that he loved Linda very very much and wants a happy ending! Obviously an old fashioned guy at heart!

    • BigLittleWolf says

      @Planner – Maybe so. It was good – very good – once, and for a long time.
      @batticus – Lovely lyric. Thank you for finding and sharing it.
      @Flamingo – I hadn’t read that, but it makes sense, though men remarry more often and more quickly, period. (An old-fashioned guy at heart? What a delicious thought.)
      @Carol – Ah yes, the practicalities. You’re so right.

  14. batticus says

    Paul was married to Linda for 29 years and throughout those years, the only time they were apart were the ten days he was in jail in Japan. It goes without saying that Paul enjoys being part of a couple with that kind of closeness :)

    Hopefully it works out more like the Linda inspired lyric from “Two of us”:
    Two of us wearing raincoats
    Standing solo
    In the sun
    You and me chasing paper
    Getting nowhere
    On our way back home

    rather than with Jane Asher’s inspired lyric:
    And in her eyes you see nothing
    No sign of love behind the tears
    Cried for no one
    A love that should have lasted years

  15. says

    Of course the reasons people marry are as infinite as the stars. Serial marriages may be a different story. I can see if someone loses a partner through a death, the desire to remarry would be strong if their marriage was a fulfilling part of their life. For those who do serial marriage/divorce, I think there must be a deeper underlying reason for their actions. Marriage is hard work. Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t, despite trying everything. For those that divorce time after time just because they “fall out of love” or “grow apart,” I believe they don’t really know what it takes to be happy with someone. Marriage is loving in spite of just as much as because of.

  16. says

    Paul is a genius, but there’s a huge amount of schmaltz in his music. He’s a schmaltzy guy. It makes perfect sense he’d go for the schmaltzy choice.

  17. Ms.Ambivalent says

    I’ve been pondering your post (and the various comments) since reading it several days ago. Yes, perhaps I am just old fashioned, or a hopeless romantic. But life is a story, and I so dislike thinking the love of my life would appear an unimportant footnote. Just a ‘longtime companion’ in my obituary? Doesn’t seem right.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      I’m curious, Ms. Ambivalent. Ever been through a divorce? (No need to respond if you don’t want to, and thank you for pondering, and coming back to comment.)

  18. Ms.Ambivalent says

    Yes, I have been divorced, after 20+ years of marriage. The circumstances were different: I’d kept my maiden name, he didn’t work the last 10 years, our child was already in college. I was accustomed to a single income and glad to leave the marriage with little more than I brought into it. Odd, I know.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Thank you, Ms. Ambivalent. I don’t find it odd. You remind us all that each experience of marriage is different, as is each experience of its ending and what comes after.

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